Energy futurists say Bitcoin's blockchain technology could change the way the energy grid works by helping to keep track of electrons flowing through the system. The same technology has been what tracks and authenticates Bitcoin transactions but could be applied to transactions of energy units through a cooperative, decentralized network. Fast Company Co.Exist writer Ben Schiller describes the vision painted by Mike Mihaylov, a researcher with the EU-funded Scanergy project: Mihaylov sees "prosumers" buying and selling home-generated power using an alternative currency called NRGcoin, and he's already set up a prototype of what an eventual system might look like.

Those with access to power that they don't need would inject it into a local smart grid, which would generate one NRGcoin for each kilowatt-hour. The advantage of using NRGcoin is threefold, Mihaylov says. First, it incentivizes people to participate, as there's a ready-made market for whatever power they produce. Second, the price is fixed and baked into the protocol underlying the system; it's not subject to change if a government decides to stop incentivizing renewable energy, or an energy retailer opts to pay people less money for what they produce (as is happening in states like Nevada). And, third, energy retailers don't have to pay households in real money: They can use the dedicated currency instead.

As of now, the energy market is highly regulated, so it could be quite a while until a system like this is up and running.

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